“Just stop caring” was the advice a significant other gave to their partner for handling anxiety. I frequently hear variations of this but have yet to see someone be cured of their anxiety from this recommendation. When you don’t have an anxiety disorder, it can be difficult to know how to support someone who does. Here are some frequently asked questions on this topic.
What can you do to support your loved one?
For starters, you can learn more about what they are going through. While most people experience anxiety, it’s important to understand that anxiety is much more significant for someone with an anxiety disorder. Try to learn more about what your loved one is experiencing.
Being patient is also important when supporting your loved one. At times this can be easier said than done, especially if they fixate on the same worries and situations over and over again. Keep in mind that as difficult as it may be to listen, those worries are 100 times more distressing for them.
What are the right things to say?
Anxiety can present itself differently for everyone. Some people experience it consistently, others can go long periods of times without symptoms, while for others the onset comes and goes in waves. While your loved one is going through a symptomatic period of anxiety, just being there to let them know "everything will be okay" is beneficial.
Remain calm yourself while giving support, no matter how irrational your loved one may sound when anxious, remember that anxiety comes from intense fear and that fear feels very real to them. Understand there are no magic words that can make a person “snap out of it”. It takes commitment, help, support and hard work to improve or overcome anxiety.
Just as a side note: Some people with anxiety seek reassurance from others. Keep this in mind and make sure you are not enabling the anxiety. If you are unsure if your loved one is seeking out reassurance, reach out to a professional to make sure you are not feeding into it.
What are the right things to do?
Hang out with your loved one, if they are up to it. Engage in fun activities that you enjoy doing together. Simply going for a walk or watching a funny movie can help.
People don’t typically say their anxiety disorder went away on its own. While being supportive and empathetic is great, encouraging your loved one to get appropriate help could also be beneficial. Encouraging them through getting help is also important. Working on anxiety takes a lot of hard work and practice. Like everything else in life, expect they will experience some bumps in the road.
It’s not unusual for the support system to feel internal pressure to “fix” or say the right thing to make a loved one’s anxiety go away. Unfortunately, beyond doing your best to be supportive, it’s out of your control. If there is one thing you get from this blog, remember that anxiety feels very real to the person experiencing it and telling them to “just stop caring” is not the magical phrase that causes an anxiety disorder epiphany (or at least not that I’ve heard of). I also want to note that while not all advice is helpful, the intent behind the advice is usually well intended. With that said, give YOURSELF a pat on the back for caring and being there for your loved one, it’s not always easy but no path ever is!